I remember vividly the day they measured our senior class for graduation caps and gowns. We were sitting in English class as they walked through the room, holding a measuring tape and clipboard, and loudly announcing the circumference of each student’s skull, which all seemed to be in the 16-17 inch range.
“16 1/2...17 1/4...16 3/4...”
Until they got to me.
“FOUR HUNDRED AND EIGHTY THREE.”
Or so it seemed.
It was, in fact, so much larger than the others, that they felt compelled to re-measure and announce my giant head yet again.
“Yup. Four hundred and eighty three inches around. That’s what it really is.”
My head was officially more beefy than the captain of the football team...on account of my vast amount of brains, I’m sure.
But fortunately, the other kids let me live it down quickly, because we were near the end of our high school career, which meant that we all kind of liked each other again.
It’s a funny thing that happens as you wind down your secondary education—a weird sort of phenomenon known as rose colored glasses. Every moment is filmed in Instagram sepia, with a soft focus filter, and you suddenly can’t remember why it was that just last month, you hated their ever-living GUTS. Because now you see them the way Jesus sees them, and weep as you write sweet nothings in their yearbook.
Of course, those sentiments don’t usually last. My younger sister, Kara, woke up the day after her graduation and headed straight to the salon, where she hacked off her waist length hair. This was a symbolic gesture of being freed from the tethers she’d acquired—in friendships and responsibilities—over the course of her high school career.
And I couldn’t blame her, because I don’t think I answered my phone even once for the first half of the summer after commencement. I was so over it.
I remember driving back to the school the morning after the all night party, to clean out the remnants of my locker. My ’86 tassel swung from the mirror of my bright green Volkswagon Rabbit—a hand-me-down from a dear uncle whom I repaid by “forgetting” to check the oil, thus seizing up the engine in the middle of I-15 a couple of months later. But that was HARDLY my fault, you guys, because shouldn’t there have been some sort of blinking light or siren blast that suggested this was an IMPORTANT additive? I mean, come on! Give a girl a warning!
Anyway, I remember feeling a sense of euphoria—the cliched notion that I had my whole life in front of me! And I was going to start it off by getting a really, really good base tan. Right after a nap. And a Diet Coke.
Eventually, that first summer passed away, and with it, the desperation and lack of confidence known to every high school student. It was replaced with giant hoop earrings, highlighted hair and an awesome job at the mall. I spent the months saving money for college, dieting on swedish fish and bologna sandwiches (the 80’s wasn’t really known for being nutritionally sound) and found a boyfriend who referred to me as, “Sweetheart.”
Could life get any better?
The answer is yes. It can, and it does. But that right there was pretty awesome sauce, and I have the skin cancer to prove it.
That next fall, we were invited back as alumni for Homecoming. A group of us sat together on the grass and talked about our lives thus far. I’ll never forget listening as one friend expressed profound regret over decisions she’d made in high school that had taken her down a path she never intended to go.
Decisions that had seemed perfectly suited for Spirit Hall and exaggerated teenaged emotions, but once the cap was thrown into the air, left her reeling with despair.
And she rocked back and forth, hugging her knees, and cried.
My heart ached for her.
Bless her heart, she just hadn’t realized that there really IS life after high school.
And so, in my duty as your official Islander Commencement speaker, I say to all of you dear graduates who have been told that those days were golden—let me assure you that just the opposite is true. Those days were paper. Maybe cardstock, or particle board, but definitely not precious metal.
So as you drive along, go ahead and let your tassel swing in the rearview mirror, just as long as you continue looking forward, to your incredible future. There is so much more to come, my friends. So much more.
May you go forth and conquer...and never find yourself hugging your knees over the choices you make—this is my prayer for you.
CONGRATULATIONS, CLASS OF 2013!